Something to Ponder

The new collective bargaining agreement stopped the Bears from being aggressive in free agency. However, another element of the deal could have a bigger impact on the development of this draft class and beyond.

Teams can no longer sign rookies selected past the first round to more than a four-year deal. Before the new CBA, teams could sign rookies up to six seasons. But because of the shorter years on deals, that means teams can't stretch out the signing bonuses as far as before which means the bonuses for selections past the first round will be smaller this season.

When you consider Danieal Manning and Devin Hester are both raw prospects, the more important factor to keep an eye on is how quickly they develop. Although both could contribute in the return game as rookies, it will likely take at least a season or two for them to be ready to play major roles in the secondary.

The Bears and teams around the league could feel pressured to use younger players before they're ready in order to get a return on their investment. It also means when it comes time for contract talks, teams will have a smaller body of work to use in evaluating player growth.

For example, if the current agreement had been in place when Charles Tillman came into the league as a second round pick in 2003 he would be in a contract year. The Bears would have had to consider locking him up now at a reasonable price or risk him losing him if he has a big year.

Welcome Aboard
The Bears will face opponents led by a first-year coach in nine of 16 regular-season games in 2006. The Bears' first three opponents and four of their first five feature first-year coaches. Chicago ends the season against first-year coaches in five of the final seven games, including the last two.

With three new coaches in the NFC North it sways the number, but it also gives the Bears an excellent chance to repeat as division champions.

Quote to Note
"It was tough to watch but at the same time I used it as a learning tool. Things happen to certain players and I don't take it as a negative because this could be a blessing in disguise for me. Just to sit back, watch and observe from a distance on the sideline. I think it helped me to grasp and learn the game a little bit more." –- WR Mark Bradley on missing the final nine games of his rookie season with a torn right ACL.


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